InsiderNJ Op-ed: Turning the Trump Presidency to Greater Democratic Advantage

When I was elected Chairman of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee in the summer of 2016, I spent the next few weeks and months meeting with fellow chairs, community activists, and volunteers from across the state to gather ideas on how to reinvigorate the Democratic Party in Atlantic County, a county where we have historically performed well in presidential years but have gotten clobbered in the off-years. My goal was to get us in a position to hit the ground running for the 2017 elections, which would see much lower turnout for us than the presidential election.

My meetings and discussions yielded two common threads for a successful organization: candidate recruitment coupled with strengthening local Democratic clubs. Fortunately, timing was on our side, for after the election of President Trump many people wanted to get involved in politics and even run for office.

Capitalizing on the groundswell of activism, we decided to publicly advertise for candidates for elected office, something we’ve never done but has proven quite successful in other counties. It turned into a very labor-intensive process, with our team spending long hours poring over resumes and interviewing candidates. However, our efforts were well worth it. We were able to recruit top-notch, quality candidates to run for office. Our efforts produced two new Freeholders and a new Sheriff, as well as playing a small role in electing a new Assemblyman. Locally, Democrats took control of Absecon and Atlantic City as well as achieved upsets in Northfield and Galloway Township. While having Governor-elect Murphy on the ballot undoubtedly helped us, our candidates outperformed the top of the ticket in many of our precincts, exemplifying the results that can be had when great candidates localize elections.

Recognizing that growth starts from the bottom-up, we doubled-down on our efforts to support our local Democratic organizations, recruiting about 5 new municipal chairs over the past year and a half and instituting a municipal chairs training program to educate municipal leaders on best practices as well as how we can help them grow. We’ve also been much more active in municipal races, providing local clubs and candidates with financial and logistical assistance to achieve victory. Just in the way that Howard Dean pioneered a 50-state strategy, we firmly believe that our long-term growth relies on a 23-town strategy.

Let’s not kid ourselves: the Democratic Party in Atlantic County has a long way to go. Republicans still control county government and a majority of municipalities. However, the takeaways from our story are twofold. First, if the Democratic Party can be revived in Atlantic County, it can happen anywhere. When we localize elections and recruit great candidates, our message can resonate with the broader electorate. Second, the strategies that we’ve implemented in Atlantic County are nothing new. They were passed on to me by brilliant women and men who know how to win elections and get people involved. As the Democratic Party begins to rebuild all across the country, we shouldn’t overthink things. Quality candidate recruitment and local organizing are two straightforward ways that we as Democrats can survive and thrive during the Trump presidency and beyond.

Michael Suleiman is the Chairman of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee.

Maria's Women United Announces Candidate Endorsements

Maria’s Women United endorses 20 candidates for the upcoming 2017 election

Maria’s Women United proudly announces the endorsement of the following female candidates running for office in the November general election:

  • Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Fifth Legislative District
  • Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, Fourth Legislative District
  • Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones, Fifth Legislative District
  • Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Sixth Legislative District
  • Carol Murphy, Candidate for Assembly in the Seventh Legislative District
  • Maryann Merlino, Candidate for Assembly in the Eighth Legislative District
  • Joann Schwartz, Candidate for Assembly in the Eighth Legislative District
  • Assemblywoman Joann Downey, 11th Legislative District
  • Laura Poppe, Candidate for Assembly in the 16th Legislative District
  • Lacey Rzeszowski, Candidate for Assembly in the 21st Legislative District
  • Freeholder Carol Musso, Cumberland County
  • Surrogate Helene Reed, Gloucester County
  • Freeholder Heather Simmons, Gloucester County
  • Dr. Thelma Witherspoon, Atlantic County Freeholder Candidate
  • Caren Fitzpatrick, Atlantic County Freeholder Candidate
  • Ashley Bennett, Atlantic County Freeholder Candidate
  • Danielle Davis, Cape May County Freeholder Candidate
  • Gina Marie Santore, Woolwhich Council Candidate
  • Stephanie Madden, Haddon Heights Council Candidate
  • Angela Bardoe, Pittsgrove Council Candidate

“The mission of Maria’s Women United has always been to support female candidates in the lower seven counties and those who value South Jersey, at all levels of government, building a bench of strong Democratic women. These women embody the spirit and legacy of Maria Barnaby Greenwald, a trailblazer for women throughout our region. Our board is proud to support these women and invest over $21,000 in their respective races,” said Amy Swan, Chair of Maria’s Women United. “We strongly urge all New Jerseyans to come out and vote on November 7th for these highly qualified candidates up and down the ballot.”
Maria’s Women United is dedicated to preserving and fostering the Maria Barnaby Greenwald legacy of uniting, promoting, mentoring and empowering Democratic women of South Jersey
and those who support the region. Maria’s impact on the political landscape of our state was a lasting one, breaking down barriers and extending a hand to others who needed it. It is our goal to honor her commitment to limitless achievements and possibility for all women.
The following is a list of members of the board of Maria’s Women United:
Amy Swan, Chair; Melissa Pollitt, Vice Chair; Donna Marie Robinson Taylor, Treasurer; Leana Crowther, Secretary; Beth Schroeder-Buonsante, Mary Cruz, Alexis Degan, Karin Elkis, Stephanie Fisher, Karen Kominsky, Jeannie LaRue, Jennifer Lehman, Tricia Mueller, Allison Murphy, Jessica Stewart and Jennifer Taylor.

Democrats Condemn Carman's Embrace of Confederate Flag

(Egg Harbor Township) Today, the Atlantic County Democrats condemned Freeholder John Carman’s embrace of the Confederate flag. In various pictures on Facebook over the years, including one from just last month, Carman is shown wearing a Confederate flag patch on his vest.

“The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and bigotry, pure and simple. For many of our friends in the African-American community, the sight of it puts knots in their stomachs," said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman. “After posting misogynist memes on Facebook in the winter, I thought I’d seen it all, but Freeholder Carman never ceases to amaze me.”

Race historian and Brown University professor Matthew Guterl once said in an interview, "Wearing the flag or celebrating it, putting it on your car window or coffee table in your house, it's a reminder to everyone, to every guest, to every person who sees it, black or white, that you are a stakeholder in the Confederate history of the South, and therefore the defense of slavery and racial prejudice. No one is immune to this."

This isn't the first time John Carman has gotten himself in trouble. In January, he posted two misogynist memes on Facebook the day of the Women's March in Washington and then waited four days to offer a tepid apology.

Senator-select Colin Bell Endorsed by The Sierra Club of New Jersey

Senator-select Colin Bell has been officially endorsed by the Sierra Club of New Jersey in his bid for State Senate in New Jersey's 2nd Legislative District.

Bell has pledged to continue former Senator Jim Whelan's suburb environmental record in the Senate.

"I want to thank the Sierra Club of New Jersey for their support," said Bell. "As Atlantic County's senator, I am committed to moving our community forward. Protecting our shore and open spaces for generations to come is necessary to not only preserve what keeps Atlantic County special, but to also strengthen our economy that relies on it. I am so appreciative of the Sierra Club for their support and look forward to working with them to stand up for Atlantic County."

Senator-select Bell is running against Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown who has dismal environmental voting record. The most recent Clean Water Action's legislative scorecard, released today, gave Brown a 46%. 

For 125 years the Sierra Club has worked to preserve and protect wilderness in America, originally in Western States. The New Jersey Chapter was founded in 1971, playing an important role in preventing the damming of the Delaware River above the Water Gap, limiting the burning of municipal waste in incinerators, retiring our coal-burning power plants, and obtaining federal Wild & Scenic protection for five river segments in New Jersey, including two in the 2nd Legislative District.

Fitzpatrick Calls for Creation of Animal Shelter Oversight Committee

Atlantic County Freeholder candidate Caren Fitzpatrick today called for the creation of the Animal Shelter Oversight Committee, which culminates after a history of controversies at the Atlantic County Animal Shelter in Pleasantville this year.

"More transparency is always a good thing," said Caren Fitzpatrick. "The best way to restore confidence in the operation of the Animal Shelter is to give staff, volunteers, and the public a greater say in how the Shelter is operated."

Fitzpatrick noted that the proposed Animal Shelter Oversight Committee would be made up of county administration, Shelter staff and volunteers, and members of the public who would review current Animal Shelter policies and procedures, make recommendations on best practices based on other facilities in the industry to make the Shelter more efficient, and investigate any issues that are brought to the Committee’s attention by the public or Shelter volunteers.

"Government works best when we start talking with each other," said Fitzpatrick. "The time has come to get the county, Shelter volunteers, and members of the public at the same table and have a conversation on how to improve the Shelter. The animals cared for at the Shelter, and the citizens of Atlantic County who ultimately adopt some of these animals, deserve nothing less.”

Atlantic Democratic Candidates Endorsed by Democrats 2000

Democrats 2000, the premier young Democrat fundraising organization in New Jersey, today has announced its endorsement of 48 young Democrats under the age of 40 running for public office across New Jersey.

“We are proud to announce the endorsement of 48 amazing young Democratic candidates who we know will bring good government and fresh new ideas to public service in legislative districts, counties, and municipalities across New Jersey,” said Jon Chebra and Matt Bonasia, co-presidents of Democrats 2000. “For the past two decades, Democrats 2000 has been raising money to help young candidates punch through the competition and reach the voters of New Jersey, and we look forward to supporting our endorsed candidates this year and celebrating their successes on November 7th.”

Democrats 2000 has endorsed the following candidates for election on November 7, 2017:

Colin Bell – State Senate, LD 2

Bob Andrzejczak – Assembly, LD 1

Ryan Young – Assembly, LD 9

Ashley Bennett – Freeholder District 3, Atlantic County

Jeffree Fauntleroy, II – Council-at-Large, Atlantic City

Walead Abdrabouh – Council, Galloway

Frank J. Santo, Jr – Council, Galloway

Leanna Mullen – Committee, Mullica Township

Mazzeo Applauds Prosecutor Tyner's Directive on Law Enforcement Carrying Naloxone

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) released the following statement following the public announcement that Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner has issued a directive that all law enforcement officers in the county carry Narcan, the life-saving anti-overdose drug that has saved thousands of lives in New Jersey.

"I'm grateful for Prosecutor Tyner's forward thinking approach to combating the massive heroin and opioid epidemic plaguing our community. By equipping all law enforcement across the county with Narcan we will save countless lives. We all know however that this is just one step in the overall fight against addiction. In the Assembly, I will continue to work to strengthen our prescription monitoring program, end the stigma surrounding addiction, and increase recovery and rehabilitation options. There is much work to be done, and I'm glad that we have a thoughtful and capable leader in Damon Tyner leading the charge in our prosecutor's office."

Assemblyman Mazzeo also commended the AtlantiCare Foundation for their $10,000 donation to the ACPO initiative which is helping to fund the purchase of Naloxone for officers across the county. He said, "I'm glad to see AtlantiCare once again stepping up to save lives. Their support and the support of local hospitals have been instrumental in making sure those suffering from addiction get the care they need."

Late last year Assemblyman Mazzeo wrote to the Acting Prosecutor asking her to issue the same directive. At the time The Press of Atlantic City endorsed Assemblyman Mazzeo's effort saying that "State statistics show naloxone was administered 718 times between January 2015 and this June, with law enforcement giving 84 of the doses. Those stats on lives saved show the value of equipping both EMS personnel and officers." [ACPress Editorial, 12/26/2016]

County Democrats Oppose FAA Cuts

Atlantic County Democratic Freeholder candidates Caren Fitzpatrick, Thelma Witherspoon, and Ashley Bennett today announced their opposition to any plans by Congress or the Trump Administration that would cause mass layoffs at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“The William J. Hughes Technical Center is one of the largest employers in Atlantic County,” said Fitzpatrick, Witherspoon, and Bennett. “Any efforts to seriously cut its budget or lay off workers would have a devastating effect on our economy, which is still recovering from the closings of four casinos.”

The William J. Hughes Technical Center campus in Egg Harbor Township directly and indirectly employs approximately 3,000 people. It is also home to the 177th Fighter Wing and the Stockton Aviation Research and Technology Park.

“The Technical Center is a current and future economic driver in our region, contributing nearly $680 million in spending and salaries to the South Jersey economy.[1] We are vehemently opposed to any efforts by Washington to lay off workers,” said Fitzpatrick, Witherspoon, and Bennett.

Fitzpatrick, Witherspoon, and Bennett will continue to voice their opposition to any proposed cuts as the reauthorization process continues in Washington.



Letter: Fitzpatrick wants contingent county budget

Freeholder candidate wants contingent budget

Regarding the April 26 commentary by Michael Diamond, “Who raised taxes instead of cutting the budget as revenue fell?”:

Diamond described the annual increases in the Atlantic County budget. When can we expect to see a finalized 2017 county budget?

It is now the middle of the second quarter of 2017 and the Freeholder Board is allocating funds based on the 2016 budget. Recently, $20 million was allocated for road improvements. The county should have had a Plan B (just like all middle-class families do who are trying to make ends meet), a contingent budget that anticipated reduced revenues and budgeted more conservatively for 2017.

For decades, I’ve helped businesses and nonprofits manage their finances and prepare for whatever the future holds. It’s time that much-needed thinking was brought to Atlantic County government for a change.

Caren Fitzpatrick


Candidate for Atlantic County Freeholder at Large

Bell Challenges the Two Chris Browns to Debate in Every Town

Former Assistant Atlantic County Prosecutor Colin Bell, Democratic candidate for State Senate in New Jersey's 2nd Legislative District, challenged his two opponents to debate at least once in all 17 municipalities in the district.

"I look forward to shining the light on my two opponents in this race -- Trenton's Chris Brown and Atlantic County's Chris Brown. For years Trenton's Chris Brown has voted against the hard-working residents and businesses of Atlantic County while his counterpart, Atlantic County Chris Brown, goes out and sells voters on the opposite.

'It's time for the voters of Atlantic County to see through Mr. Brown's charade for what he really is -- just another Trenton politician willing to do and say anything to get elected.

'Therefore I challenge Chris Brown to debate me in every municipality in our district, at least once, and I invite members of the press to cover them all. Let's see which Chris Brown shows up.

'Atlantic County deserves better than what Mr. Brown has to offer -- empty election promises, name calling and insults. I'm running because I believe there's a better way for Atlantic County and I look forward to sharing my vision for a bright future with the voters."